Signs & Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation

Oasis Behavioral Health Hospital helps individuals in Chandler, AZ diagnose and treat their mental health & addiction disorders.

Understanding Suicidal Ideations

Learn about suicidal ideations

Suicide, or the act of taking one’s own life, is a tragic reaction to stressful life events, and is especially tragic because it can be prevented. Individuals who are having suicidal thoughts or are actively contemplating suicide often believe that there is no other way to end the pain that they are experiencing. These thoughts are cause for concern, especially when they are accompanied by a mental illness such as depression or by substance abuse. Suicidal ideation can be broken down into two forms: active and passive. Active suicidal ideation involves an existing wish to die accompanied by a plan for how to carry out the death. On the other hand, passive suicidal ideation involves a desire to die, but a specific plan is not laid out.

While a person with suicidal ideation may not ask for help that does not mean help is not needed or wanted. Many people who commit suicide do not actually wish for death – they only want the pain to go away. Prevention of suicide begins with recognizing the warning signs of suicidal behaviors and taking action to get proper treatment.


Suicidal ideations statistics

Nearly 40,000 people in the United States die by suicide each year, more than those who die by homicide. Men are more likely than women to die by suicide as they tend to use more lethal means to die by suicide than women. Suicide is a major preventable public health crisis in the U.S. and worldwide. In 2007, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States at an overall rate of 11.3 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. It’s estimated that 11 suicide attempts occur per every death by suicide.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for suicidal ideations

Suicidal ideation has many different causes. Most often these thoughts are the result of an individual feeling as if they can’t cope with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation. Adolescents and adults with no hope for the future may come to believe that suicide is the only answer. Other common causes and risk factors for suicidal ideation include:

Genetic: Research has indicated that there may be a genetic link to suicide, meaning that individuals who have thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior are more likely to have a family history of suicide. Additionally, it is also thought that there is a genetic link to impulsive behavior, which can contribute to suicidal tendencies.

Environmental: Those who have grown up socially isolated or with an unsupportive family may be at an increased risk for suicide, especially as they being to feel more hopeless and alone. Additionally, experiencing a stressful life event such as the loss of a loved one can increase a risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Risk Factors:

  • Untreated or undertreated mental health disorders
  • Prior history of suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide or mental disorders
  • Having a medical condition such as chronic pain or a terminal illness
  • Family and domestic violence
  • Having access to firearms
  • Being homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered
  • Substance abuse problem

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of suicidal ideations

Most people who are experiencing suicidal ideations show some warning signs of their intent to end their life even if they are not as obvious. The best way to prevent this tragedy is to recognize the warning signs and act upon them. Some of the most common warning symptoms and signs of suicidal thoughts and behaviors include:

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Talking about death and dying
  • Using phrases such as “when I’m gone…” or “I’m going to kill myself”
  • Getting affairs in order
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones
  • Obtaining items needed for suicide attempt
  • Decreased social contact
  • Increasing drug and alcohol usage
  • Withdrawing from once-pleasurable activities
  • Increased risky behaviors

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Belief that suicide is the only way to end emotional pain

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Feeling of helplessness
  • Self-loathing
  • Hopelessness
  • Paranoia
  • Intense emotional pain
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden changes in personality
  • Severe anxiety and agitation


Effects of suicidal ideations

The long-term effects of suicidal thoughts take an emotional toll on both adolescents and adults who are experiencing them, often leading to the inability to function on a daily basis. Additionally, any suicidal attempts can leave permanent damage and injuries. Long-term effects may include:

  • Loss of job
  • Social isolation
  • Family difficulties
  • Damage to all organ systems
  • Brain damage
  • Brain death
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Suicidal ideations and co-occurring disorders

Suicidal ideations are often a symptom or result of undiagnosed or untreated mental health disorders. The most common co-occurring, co-morbid mental health disorders include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
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